Economic Stimulus Money Coming to PA

I just got back from a briefing where the very entertaining and well spoken Donna Cooper (Rendell’s Secretary of Planning and Policy) talked to Delaware Valley Grantmakers about the economic stimulus money coming to Pennsylvania, what it means for Philadelphia and how she recommends that foundations work in partnership with these efforts.

They’ve launched an initial site that breaks down where the money will be allocated in PA. They are still developing it and looking for feedback on its usability, so I recommend that folks check it out and give them feedback. You can either click for a break down by funding area (for example, all the bridges and highways being built in the state) or click the map to look at your county in particular. Her key theme in her appeal to the foundation world was: accelerate. She made the pitch that since people have been pushing this stimulus package through at the federal and state levels with such intensity, the foundation world could really help by stepping up the support and quickly putting money out there for the planning and brainstorming at the local level on how to use the money best (one of her specific examples was supporting a retreat for school district planners to get to have more space and time to really think of how to use some of this one time chunk of money best). In the case of a foundation like Bread & Roses (where I work), this might take the shape more of figuring out which groups are best poised to hold those planners and decision-makers accountable has they spend the stimulus money out.

Though she gave some tangible examples in her talk, I’m still left with a lot of questions. Like what about (other) local foundations, particularly those with endowments who are supposed to still be offering grants at the same level (because it should be based on a 5 year average of their investments, not the current value) but are pulling back on the funding they are offering this year? What other kinds of useful roles can foundations play in partnering with this government initiative? How can we encourage larger foundations with more resources to not pull back but actually give more at this critical moment? To accelerate? Question questions.

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